News / USA

    Honoring Unsung Hero of Women's Rights Movement

    Jane Addams advanced suffrage, democracy and world peace

    Jane Addams speaking to a crowd upon her arrival from the Netherlands after attending an international women's peace conference.
    Jane Addams speaking to a crowd upon her arrival from the Netherlands after attending an international women's peace conference.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Faiza Elmasry

    This week marks the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.

    One of the unsung heroes of the suffrage movement was Jane Addams.

    Throughout her life, Addams struggled not only for women's rights, but also for labor and civil rights; free speech and world peace.

    In a new biography, "Jane Addams: Spirit in Action," historian Louise W. Knight provides the first complete picture we've had of this activist, philosopher and social reformer.

    'Jane Addams: Spirit in Action,' by historian Louise W. Knight
    'Jane Addams: Spirit in Action,' by historian Louise W. Knight

    Women's vote

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, voting was a remote dream for women in America.

    Along with thousands of other progressive women, Jane Addams worked hard to turn the dream into reality.

    "She first got involved in the suffrage movement in 1897, when she gave a speech for women's suffrage and she attended her first meeting of the National American Women's Suffrage Association in 1906 and from then on, she became quite active," says Louise Knight, historian and author of "Jane Addams: Spirit in Action."

    Addams served as vice president of the association between 1911 and 1914. She traveled the country, lecturing and writing about suffrage. When the 19th amendment passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote, Addams became a member of the League of Women Voters, to help women become informed about the candidates and the issues on the ballot.

    Fighting for civil liberties

    Addams' fight for women's voting rights, Knight says, was part of a larger campaign she waged for civil liberties.

    In her book, Knight follows Addams' struggles as a grassroots organizer. Her achievements include co-founding Hull House, the nation's first settlement house which offered educational and social opportunities for immigrants.

    Jane Addams was 29 when she and two friends opened Hull House on Chicago's tough west side in 1889.
    Jane Addams was 29 when she and two friends opened Hull House on Chicago's tough west side in 1889.

    She co-founded the first national women's labor union and two major civil rights groups. She also lobbied for an eight-hour workday and an end to child labor.

    What fascinates biographer Knight is how Addams - who was born to a wealthy family - was able to connect with the working class and to fight so passionately for their rights.

    "She really believed you have to know people to understand how they look at the world and that's the only way you can be a true democratic citizen, kind of radical idea," Knight explains. "And she did it by living in a working class neighborhood full of diversity, of cultures and languages and backgrounds and work experiences, for most of her adult life, and forming friendships and partnerships with people from a completely different class than the one she was raised in."

    Pragmatic reformer

    That was one of the experiences that transformed Addams from a dreamy idealist into one of the nation's most effective and pragmatic reformers.

    "It wasn't something she ever doubted, that she was superior. Even though she wanted to treat people socially equally, she felt morally superior and what she discovered by knowing people and living among them was that was not true," she says. "That just being highly educated or highly cultured, as her society put it, was not enough. In fact, it was inadequate, and that what real culture was she saw among her neighbors who were immigrants, who had lived in one world and now moved to another world. She saw a broader tolerance among working class people, a generosity of spirit she did not see among her own class. And that's what changed her view of the world."

    Addams was a committed pacifist, and an outspoken opponent of war as an affront to the sanctity of life. Knight says Addams worked with other women to bring an end to World War I.

    Jane Addams (right) was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
    Jane Addams (right) was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

    "Women from both sides of the war met in the Hague in 1915 while the war was under way, showing much courage, and they basically were saying to themselves, 'there must be something we can try to do to stop the war,'" she says. "And they did try. Of course, they did not succeed."

    But after the war, women met again. They renamed the organization the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. The international group is still based in Geneva and has offices around the world.

    Addams' commitment to the needs of others and her international efforts for peace were recognized in 1931 when she became the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

    If she were alive today, Knight says, Addams would urge women around the world to come together and organize themselves as a force for peace.

    "Addams did not define peace as the absence of war, she defined it as, "the unfolding of worldwide processes making for the nurture of human life," Knight says. "And what she really meant by that was that it was a mistake to see some people as inferior whether based on their gender, or based on their ethnicity or their race or their class. So she thought you could advance peace through addressing those issues as well as addressing the issues of war."

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora